Risks too high at Zaporizhzhia


Beyond Nuclear has put out a press statement warning that the risks of a nuclear catastrophe at Ukraine’s six-reactor Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant are too high, with rumors of a Ukrainian offensive reportedly prompting mass evacuations of civilians living near the plant. Only an immediate ceasefire — or, better still, a negotiated end to a likely unwinnable war — can protect us from a potentially catastrophic nuclear incident at the plant, which has already endured shelling, missile attacks, and frequent loss of connection to the electrical grid.

The press release begins:

Fears of an imminent Ukrainian offensive that could put the country’s six-reactor Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in even greater danger, should prompt immediate efforts to negotiate a ceasefire, if not an end to the Russian war against Ukraine, urged safe energy group, Beyond Nuclear today.

News reports that civilians around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant are being evacuated suggest that the conflict already consuming the southwestern region of Ukraine could be about to escalate, potentially engulfing the nuclear plant.

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has already escaped close calls, the target of shelling and missile attacks on at least one occasion and with frequent losses of offsite power that, if not restored promptly, could lead to a meltdown. 

The plant has been occupied by Russian forces since March 4, 2022. Rumors abound that a severely depleted workforce is laboring under stressful and even violent conditions, while other staff have fled or have disappeared.

As a precaution, all six Zaporizhzhia reactors are currently shut down, but that does not mean they are out of danger. 

“The fuel in the reactor core still requires electricity to power cooling, as do the pumps that supply cooling water to the fuel pools,” warned Beyond Nuclear international specialist, Linda Pentz Gunter. “A meltdown is still possible. Putting the reactors in what is termed ‘cold shutdown’ just buys workers more time to restore power, but a reliable supply of electricity to the site is still essential to avoid disaster.

“The consequences not only for the people of Ukraine and neighboring Russia, but for all of Europe, should any or all of these reactors melt down or suffer a fuel pool fire are unimaginably dire,” Pentz Gunter said. 

Read the full press release

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